December 26, 2022
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos, & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Holds Virtual Storm Briefing

Video, Audio, Photos, & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Holds Virtual Storm Briefing

Governor Hochul: "Anyone who declares victory and says it's over, it is way too early to say this is at its completion. Maybe the severity is downplayed now, and right now, it's not as bad as it had been over the last couple days, but it is still a dangerous situation to be in."

Hochul: "This has been a joint effort, and I want the people of Western New York to know, who are frustrated, that we are working so hard, and the people around us are working so hard, and I'm grateful for all of them...We'll be getting through this together very soon. I feel confident of that, but the most important thing is please stay at home for the next day."

Earlier today, Governor Hochul held a virtual storm briefing to update New Yorkers as a winter storm continues to impact the state. On Thursday, Governor Hochul declared a statewide State of Emergency ahead of the event. The Governor announced the deployment of an additional 200 members of the New York National Guard, bringing the total to approximately 433 members, to assist New Yorkers facing emergencies and those who are unable to travel.

VIDEO of the event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of the event is available here.

PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:

Good afternoon, Governor Kathy Hochul here with my partners in government, our County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Mayor Byron Brown. We have been through a lot of wars together, and this blizzard is the one for the ages. Certainly, it is the blizzard of the century. And we are here to talk about our collaborative approach to dealing with this crisis, and it is a crisis, as well as joined by our incredible teams. I'll be introducing our representatives from the state who've joined me here. We spent Christmas in Downtown Buffalo in a hotel yesterday, and I appreciate everyone, all the first responders, and the National Guard who are here. All the local police and fire professionals for sacrificing the time away from their families so we can keep your families safe.

I'm joined by Commissioner of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Jackie Bray and the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation Marie Therese Dominguez, as well as our Police Superintendent, Western New York zone, Steve Nigrelli. I did have a chance to go out around the city this morning and survey some of the sites and mostly to thank people. I was at the Buffalo Police Garage talking to the team of police department officials and their SWAT team, as well as our State Police, and talk about how they have been out there, talking to them personally about their experiences going into homes, going into vehicles, and in too many tragic times of finding people who did not survive the experience.

And I want them to know that we know that is difficult work to do. And they're grieving inside as we all are for the families who are getting the horrible, heartbreaking news that their loved ones succumbed to the storm over the last day or two.

And our hearts are breaking for them, and we'll be there to support their families and get them through this. But also, the people who are the ones who find their loved ones, it does take a toll. And I wanted these people, as tough as they know they are, to know that we need to make sure that they can the circumstances they're in because none of them ever thought that this is what they'd be doing on their Christmas holiday either.

So, I wanted to thank them. I also had a chance to see some of our snow plowing operations on Route 33. The DOT, extraordinary what they've been doing, and it was very important to keep Route 33 open because that is a gateway to one of our major hospitals, ECMC.

So, we had to make sure that the doctors and nurses and professionals could get to their jobs, as well as clearing a path for ambulances and other emergency vehicles to get to the hospitals as well. So, I had a chance to go thank them. Also stop by the Masten Avenue Armory to talk to the men and women of the National Guard who've come in from all over the state have been deployed there. Over 400 strong, more on the way, and we're going to continue having them involved in our missions: search and rescue plowing, traffic enforcement, bringing food and water to our warming shelters and to our first responders, as well as medical transport to get people where they need to go.

And in fact, in one such case, we had a situation where the head of surgery at ECMC was trapped in a vehicle with his elderly mother, and they're running out of fuel, and they're rescued by our State Fire teams as well, who have been doing an extraordinary job. I don't think a lot of people talk about the State Fire teams, but they have been everywhere, really the backbone of this operation for us.

So, that is what I just witnessed on the ground this morning. I'm in Downtown Buffalo, I will continue to be here and as much as we can see the skies right now, we know that the storm is coming back. We're expecting another six to 12 inches. And in the south towns, the southern part of Erie County, little bit south of here, they had 30 to 40 inches of snow overnight.

So, anyone who declares victory and says it's over, it is way too early to say this is at its completion. Maybe the severity is downplayed now, and right now, it's not as bad as it had been over the last couple days, but it is still a dangerous situation to be in. And that is why the driving bans - and the County Executive and the Mayor can address what's going on in their municipalities - but the driving bans that we have here at the state level, the New York State Thruway Authority closed from the Pennsylvania border all the way to Henrietta near Rochester. That is because we still have scores and scores of vehicles that were abandoned when people left during the storm, were just in a ditch, they can't possibly get out. We have had snowplows, major snowplows and rescue vehicles, I saw them myself in ditches, buried in snow. So, those circumstances are still difficult. We need to have the roads open to continue plowing and salting and removing all those vehicles, so the Thruway will remain closed until further notice.

We're assessing right now what the conditions will be over the next few hours and decide when we can get it open safely. Also closed are the Routes 190, the Route 400, 219 and Route 5. Those are the main arterials that the state is responsible for.

Back to the search and rescue, our teams alone, the County and the City have their own stories. We had over 550 rescues transporting people all over, people from out of town who had no idea what they're in for. It's extraordinary. The people in Williamsville, in a Christmas Eve rescue with the plow team, a family of six was rescued. It was a very frightening experience for all of them, and I'm so grateful that we had our plow drivers literally involved in the rescue as well. And that goes to the testament of the hardworking state workers and local officials and partners we had working as well.

So, the National Guard is on the ground, we have the weather forecast not that great, but it's improving.

And I also want to mention what's going on in Watertown, another site in the state that we're responsible for assisting with and in constant communication with their leadership team, the County and the Mayor of Watertown. They're continuing to get more snow. Another three inches per hour is coming down and some of the roads in that area are closed.

So, I just want to say a couple of things. This has been a joint effort, and I want the people of Western New York to know, who are frustrated, that we are working so hard, and the people around us are working so hard and I'm grateful for all of them. But if you're that mom at home with kids who've been out of power for a long time, that was me not that many years ago. I know the experience. It is frightening. It is exasperating and you're just saying, "When is this going to end?" I understand that pain and that frustration intensely. And we'll be getting through this together very soon. I feel confident of that, but the most important thing is please stay at home for the next day.

Luckily, the kids are off school, otherwise, we would've been having to deal with the loss of learning, and also making sure that since today is a holiday and over the weekend was a holiday, it is a big travel weekend. But hopefully, those of you who aborted your plans to travel out of state will continue to be safe and stay off the road so we can continue to rescue people, get them safe and make sure that the roads are clear, so we can reopen our community as soon as humanly possible. That is our desire here today.

Mayor Byron Brown, I want to thank you again for all the work that you have done. And again, I had a chance to see the Buffalo PD and its operation. These people are working so hard, they're so dedicated, and what they've had to see and witness over the last few days with the fatalities that we've been talking about, it is just extraordinary to know what they go through. They're all human beings as well, and this has to have an effect on them, and they were also separated from their families. So, continue to give our gratitude to the Buffalo Police Department, their SWAT teams, their rescue teams, and everyone else. And also, Rochester has sent people. Rochester Police Department is here. Our National Guard is here from Rochester, from Niagara County, from Syracuse as well. So, this is all-hands-on-deck from the State of New York to help the people of Buffalo and Western New York altogether.

Contact the Governor's Press Office

Contact us by phone:

Albany: (518) 474-8418
New York City: (212) 681-4640